Cave Creek Regional Park, AZ

This is the second article in a 5-part series on Maricopa County Regional Parks

Cave Creek Regional Park, one of Maricopa County’s parks, is a 2,922 acre preserve of lush desert foothills located north of Phoenix, just off the Carefree Highway. It’s a beautiful preserve with hills to climb for valley views, a new visitor’s center, and easy flatlander trails for equestrians, hikers, and bikers alike. Ranger-led educational tours and events are also available.

Camping at Cave Creek Regional Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The steep and very rocky slopes offer excellent habitat for a variety of desert plants. The sparse soil is very well drained, retaining little moisture. Yet the steep slopes provide profuse runoff when it does rain. The result is exceptionally beautiful desert scenery, including spectacular spring wildflower displays following rainy winters like this year.

The saguaro is the largest cactus of the Sonoran Desert and its best known feature. It is actually a rather finicky plant and thrives only in particular conditions such as those found at this park.

When thinking about Arizona and deserts, almost all non-desert dwelling people immediately visualize forests of multi-armed saguaros, expansive landscapes, and spectacular sunsets. All can still be experienced here.

A teddy bear cholla attack can be painful. Watch where you step. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch out for the small, shiny cactus known as the teddy-bear, or “jumping” cholla. It propagates by dropping spiny links off its arms. If you brush against one while hiking, a loose piece may “jump” into your leg! Not only is this painful, but they can be difficult to remove. Look for the green-barked palo verde, Arizona’s state tree. It blossoms a brilliant yellow in the spring. Also, you’ll recognize the ocotillo during springtime by the flaming red flowers on the tips of its branches.

Wildlife is common at the park. Birdlife is especially abundant, ranging from tiny hummingbirds to cactus wrens and hawks.

Beware of rattlesnakes while on the trail! They are not common in the winter but may be out sunning themselves on cool spring mornings. They are not aggressive if you simply give them a wide berth.

The park and surrounding area have a long history of mineral exploration. Prospectors worked the area from the 1870s, discovering minor deposits of copper, gold, silver, lead, and tungsten. Today, abandoned mines can be observed along several of the park trails.


Enjoy the beauty of Cave Creek sunrises and sunsets. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are 11 miles of multi-use trails.

You can bring your own horse as there is a horse staging area or rent a horse from Cave Creek Trail Rides located at the park.

The Go John Trail loops around a mountain to provide the illusion of being miles away from civilization.

The park’s modern campground is excellent for RVs of all sizes. Although we found over half of the 38 sites too short or unlevel for our needs, numerous sites including several pull-throughs were more than adequate for large rigs. We opted for Site 23, a mostly level back-in site with adequate space for our 40-foot motorhome. All sites are paved and have water and 50/30-amp electric service.

Other facilities include modern washrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, and a dump station. All sites are first-come, first served. In the event that the campground is full when you arrive, the park has an overflow area where you can park until a space becomes available.

For campground map, click here.

Nightly camping fee is currently $25.00 including tax.

Day use fee is $6.00.

It's another beautiful day at Cave Creek, a Maricopa County Regional Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All services and shopping are available just outside the park entrance, heading east on the Carefree Highway in the cities of Cave Creek and Carefree.

The park is roughly fifteen minutes from two major freeways—I-17 and Loop 101.
From I-17 exit east on Carefree Highway for 7 miles to 32nd Street and north (left) to the park entrance.
From Loop 101exit north on 32nd Street to the park entrance.

For map, click here.

Please note

Maricopa County parks will be unveiling a new reservation system this winter. Campers have been asking for a system that would allow them to reserve a campsite prior to arriving at the park.

Free camping
Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department is offering free camping until Wednesday, November 10, 2010. Visitors who pay the camping fee for one night will receive the next night of equal value for free. Offer NOT valid for group campground reservations or unit fees. Limit of one free night per family, household, and/or group in a seven day period (Monday through Sunday). Rain checks will NOT be issued if space is not available.

For additional information visit the Maricopa County Regional Parks website or phone (602) 506-2930.

Worth Pondering…
When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully
When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze
When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high
When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying
“Welcome to our home.”
—Jeanette Chico, When It Rains

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